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The Divine Nine: History of Black Sororities and Fraternities

The Divine Nine: History of Black Sororities and Fraternities

Black Greek-letter organizations have made a deep impact on Black American culture. Learn more about the fraternities and sororities that started it all.

The Divine Nine is the nickname of a group of nine historically Black Greek-letter organizations called the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC). These nine organizations have a significant place in Black American history and culture. Collectively, these organizations comprise nearly 4 million members. These organizations are a source of family and community to many Black students, with some first-generation members and others joining as a legacy.

The Divine Nine organizations have been around since the early 1900s and have contributed greatly to Black American culture. They are committed to public service, scholarship and brother- and sisterhood. These traditions have trickled down through generations of members and even infiltrated pop culture. The Divine Nine’s impact on Black American life and culture is apparent.

Which Greek-Letter Organizations Are Part of the Divine Nine?

The Divine Nine comprises nine organizations in total, each with a different purpose and attributes. Here is a short breakdown of each.

  • Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.: With the aim of manly deeds, scholarship, and love for all mankind, Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity is the first intercollegiate Greek-letter organization founded for Black men in the United States. Seven students at Cornell University started the organization on December 4, 1906. It started out as a study group.
  • Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.: Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, whose members are also known as the Ivies, is the oldest established Greek-letter organization for Black women. The organization started at Howard University on January 15, 1908. They aim to be of service to all mankind.
  • Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.: This organization focuses deeply on community service, with special emphasis on serving the Black community. Delta Sigma Theta, founded on January 13, 1913, at Howard University, aims to provide assistance and support through established programs in local communities throughout the world.
  • Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc.: Also known as the Nupes, Kappa Alpha Psi has been dedicated to brotherhood and service in the Black community since its founding on January 5, 1911, at Indiana University Bloomington. It has two names, the other being Phi Nu Pi. The fraternity’s motto is Achievement in Every Field of Human Endeavor.
  • Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc.: Founded on November 17, 1911, at Howard University, this organization is based on four principles: Manhood, Scholarship, Perseverance, and Uplift. Omega Psi Phi aims to elevate its members and the Black community.
  • Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc.: The only NPHC member fraternity with a constitutionally-bound sister Greek-letter organization — Zeta Phi Beta — Phi Beta Sigma‘ was established on January 9, 1914, at Howard University. Its mission focuses on community service, building brotherhood, and promoting scholarship.
  • Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc.: The sister organization to Phi Beta Sigma, Zeta Phi Beta sorority’s ideals include Scholarship, Service, Sisterhood and Finer Womanhood. Zeta Phi Beta, founded on January 16, 1920, at Howard University, prides itself on achieving a legacy of excellence.
  • Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc.: Sigma Gamma Rho is the only Black sorority founded at a predominantly white institution, Butler University in Indiana. Founded on November 12, 1922, its mission is to better women’s lives through community service, civil, and social action.
  • Iota Phi Theta Fraternity, Inc.: Founded during the Civil Rights movement on September 19, 1963, at Morgan State University, Iota Phi Theta fraternity was the last member admitted to the NPHC. They have a long history of social service. The organization is dedicated to making meaningful contributions to society, with special emphasis on doing so in the Black community.
The History of the Divine Nine

Now known nationally and internationally, the Divine Nine have a long and rich history cultivated over decades of growth.

Initially, fraternities in the United States, like the institutions of higher learning in which they were founded, were exclusively for white male students. Women created sororities in response to the fraternities’ refusal to admit them. Subsequently, when Black students began to enroll in universities, they faced the same issue. So, they created the first Black Greek-letter organizations in response to the racism Black students experienced on campuses.

After the establishment and popularization of historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in the United States, Black fraternities and sororities followed. The organizations began out of fellowship and shared principles rather than as a direct response to racist beliefs and practices. Howard University, in particular, was the founding site for five of the Divine Nine. These organizations quickly spread to other universities in the coming decades, including at primarily white institutions (PWIs).

Black Greek Organizations Formed the NPHC

Howard University students founded the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC) — not to be confused with the National Panhellenic Conference — in 1930 to spark unity and protect the members’ collective interests.

Though some members of NPHC were at HBCUs, others were not and needed a place to ensure their institutions would treat them fairly. The council’s formation ensured that members would have a say on their respective campuses.

The Divine Nine’s Civil Rights Legacy

Black Greek-letter organizations like the Divine Nine have been historically significant for many reasons, including involvement in the Black Arts movement, the Civil Rights movement, the Black Power movement, and most recently, Black Lives Matter. As organizations committed to serving the Black community, these organizations’ missions easily fell in line with the movements’ missions.

Many members of Divine Nine organizations were pivotal figures in the Civil Rights movement, including but not limited to:

Chapters themselves were also important to the movement, as they formed connections with organizations like the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).

What the Divine Nine Does Today

Today, the Divine Nine is still deeply committed to the Black community. The organizations have not forgotten their history as changemakers and are still dedicated to service, empowerment, and fellowship.

Members of NPHC called for racial justice in 2020, specifically in response to George Floyd’s killing. Individual chapters and members have also demonstrated in support of the message behind the Black Lives Matter movement.

Both collegiate and alum members of the Divine Nine organizations participate in philanthropic efforts — from heart disease awareness to denouncing sexual assault — with the specific cause varying from chapter to chapter. They are all also very involved in voter rights activism.

The Divine Nine at HBCUs

At HBCUs, the Divine Nine are usually intertwined with the history of the schools. They are involved in campus-wide events and are recognized and celebrated by faculty and staff. HBCUs feature Greek life organizations like the Divine Nine at athletic eventsprofessional affairs, and the HBCU homecoming experience — which is much more than just a football game for many HBCUs.

Additionally, members of the Divine Nine understand the powerful network of members, both collegiate and alumni, that come along with joining these organizations. With more people interested in joining HBCUs, those networks become much stronger.

The Divine Nine at PWIs

At PWIs, Divine Nine organizations may be less involved in school-sponsored activities and events, but they are no less committed to their missions. These groups often become hubs for Black and other minority students interested in the principles of Divine Nine organizations.

Additionally, Divine Nine members at PWIs are often leaders of social activism on their campuses. They also tend to be involved with other organizations across campus. Divine Nine fraternities and sororities at PWIs tend to be smaller in number and very tight-knit, with members who are devoted to their new-found families.

 #DivineNine #BlackExcellence #CulturalLegacy #Sororities #Fraternities #NPHC #HBCUs #HBCU #FocusQuest

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Welcome 2024

Dear Students,

As Student Success Coaches, we would like to take this opportunity to reach out and communicate with you directly. We understand that your academic journey can be challenging, but please know that we are here to support you every step of the way.

We want to remind you that your success is our top priority. We are here to provide you with guidance, resources, and support to help you achieve your academic goals. Whether you need assistance with time management, study skills, or navigating the university, we are here to help.

It is important to remember that you are not alone in this journey. For this reason we have created this entry to provide you with a direct message and to be able to contact us more directly. We hope you enjoy.

Student Success Coaches

Welcome 2024

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Happy 2024 to all of you fantastic students of all kinds and every level – high schoolers, undergrads, grads, and certificate achievers! Welcome to a brand-new year filled with exciting possibilities!

As you dive into 2024, remember this: success is a journey, not a destination. It won’t always be a cakewalk, but oh, the adventure is so worth it! Think about it – no epic story started with, “Once upon a time, everything was easy.”

Persistence is your secret sauce! When the going gets tough (and it will), keep pushing forward. Trust me; the view from the top is way more spectacular when you’ve conquered some hurdles.

Now, let’s chat mindset and academic attitude. Be aware of them like your favorite Netflix show updates! Recognize any habits that might be dragging you down. Are you a midnight crammer or a procrastination pro? Identifying these quirks is your first step to supercharging your success.

As you embark on this academic adventure, don’t forget to sprinkle some fun, happiness, and peace into the mix. Life’s too short for all work and no play! Make friends, explore new interests, and savor every success, big or small.

Here’s to a year filled with growth, laughter, and discovering your awesome potential. You’ve got this! Cheers to your success and the countless adventures that lie ahead!

Ndala M. Booker, Ed.D.

Chief Student Success Officer

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Massasoit Community College Launches New Black Studies Major

Massasoit Community College Launches New Black Studies Major

In a pioneering move, Massasoit Community College, located in Massachusetts, has become the first two-year school in the state to offer a degree program in Black Studies. This initiative aims to provide students with a comprehensive understanding of the Black experience through courses such as “Sociology of Race and Ethnicity” and “Contemporary Issues in the Black Community.”

The Decade-Long Journey

The roots of this groundbreaking program trace back a decade when student feedback highlighted the need for a more culturally diverse curriculum. “In 2020, as interest grew and Black student enrollment increased, Sauvignon crafted a Black Studies curriculum and submitted it to the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education. The program got approval last spring.”

Dr. Sauvignon emphasizes that the program goes beyond catering solely to Black students. It serves as a platform for students from all backgrounds to gain insights into the Black experience, fostering understanding and appreciation of diverse cultures. “It’s a good place in time right now, where critical race theory is being embraced, where understanding and appreciating cultures is being embraced, with racial equity and DEI initiatives being embraced.”

Shaping Future Perspectives

Renowned sociologist Dr. Elijah Anderson stresses the importance of understanding Black Studies as a reflection of American history. This innovative program is designed not only to empower Black students but also to enlighten students of all backgrounds about different cultural experiences. Dr. Shawn Utsey, professor of psychology, emphasizes how exposure to the Black narrative can reduce biases, particularly among those in law enforcement. “If we can expose them to let them know that Black folks are just different sometimes – there’s not anything to be afraid of – people would perhaps be less alarmed in the presence of Black people, and we will reduce the many, many mishaps that occur.”

Beyond Academia

The interdisciplinary approach of Massasoit’s Black Studies courses ensures that the knowledge gained isn’t confined to a singular academic pursuit. Credits from these courses count toward liberal arts and humanities elective requirements across various degrees and facilitate smooth credit transfers to four-year colleges. “The goal is to provide the foundation for Black students to understand who they are, where they come from, and where they can go. For non-Black students, it’s an opportunity to learn about different cultural experiences that would enhance their academic learning.”

Current Status and Future Goals

Though the program is in its early stages with three declared majors, leaders at Massasoit express optimism about its growth. They aim to increase visibility and enrollment through presentations and community collaborations, with hopes of expanding the program to include Women’s Studies and Latino Studies in the future. “Next fall, we’re obviously a lot more optimistic that we’ll see people actually going into the major.”

As Massasoit pioneers Black Studies in the community college landscape, it sets a precedent for embracing diverse perspectives and fostering a deeper understanding of cultural experiences.

#BlackStudies #Diversity #Education #InnovationInCurriculum #MassasoitCollege #HigherEducation

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